Gaining team consensus is a huge win. After all, it means everyone is on the same page, and that you can more easily move forward and begin making progress. What happens, however, when you can’t reach consensus?
In team settings, it’s certainly not abnormal (nor it is it a bad thing) for members to disagree. What can often happen, though, is that some members refuse to consider any option other than their own. Again, that in and of itself isn’t bad, especially if the two sides truly believes that they’re ideas are what’s best for the team and the organization.
When neither side gives an inch, you often have to make the final call, and that doesn’t always sit well with your team. So rather than just throw in the towel and decide for everyone, when your team is in a stalemate, follow this advice from Amanda Setili, president of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates.
- Agree on your objectives. Pause, take a step back and establish what must happen in the short and long term, and set those as priorities. Then talk about what would be “nice to have,” but aren’t essential to hit your goals. Don’t move forward until your priorities are in focus.
- Develop several alternatives. Gather again to discuss alternative approaches to meeting your agreed-upon objectives. Remind team members to set their own points of view aside and consider the breadth of options. Then spend some time brainstorming and outline three or four distinct alternatives for how to proceed.
- Address each side’s specific concerns. As you are evaluating the pros and cons of each strategic alternative that you are considering, it’s crucial to address each side’s concerns. Ask questions and pay attention to both the facts and the emotions each team member shares. Acknowledging employees’ concerns and understanding where they are coming from is a crucial step in gaining their buy-in.
- Choose a path forward, then adjust course as you gain knowledge. The most common cause of stalemates is uncertainty about what the future will bring. The best way to get facts to address these unknowns is to test the waters. You will make mistakes along the way, but as you do, you will learn and grow in the process. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just take the first step.
- Manage the risks as you implement. Assign each team member to manage a risk or challenge associated with the plan. When each risk or challenge is explicitly managed, and someone is accountable for the outcomes in those areas, the team can move forward with more confidence, speed and coordination.
- Recognize both small and large wins. As you pursue a new strategic path, it’s essential to recognize and celebrate small signs of progress, preferably each week. Doing so keeps the energy high and helps your team to stay cohesive as they navigate challenges.
Amanda Setili, author of Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation, and Dominate Your Markets, is president of strategy consulting firm Setili & Associates. An internationally acclaimed expert on strategic agility®, she gives her clients—including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, UPS, and Walmart—unbiased and laser-clear advice on how to respond quickly and intelligently to a changing marketplace.